A letter from Les Morgan in Bangladesh
April 22, 2012
A Spiritual Inheritance for Healing
I just finished grading the final exams for the class Cindy and I have taught for the past two years at St. Andrew’s Theological College in Dhaka. The course, entitled “The Healing Ministry of the Church,” prepares future church leaders to minister to the sick and address community health issues with sound theological and practical understanding. The students learn the basics about the church’s understanding of healing—that wellness means more than physical health and alleviation of suffering involves more than the treatment of disease.
Living at the theological college in Dhaka is in itself educational for the students. Over a thousand people migrate to Dhaka every day looking for jobs, and of the metropolitan area’s 15 million inhabitants, nearly 4 million live in slums, where population densities can reach almost 900 people per acre. Millions lack access to proper housing, safe water and sanitation.
Being exposed to the harsh realities faced by the urban poor makes one wonder whether social and economic development—not only in Bangladesh, but anywhere in the world—necessarily translates into an overall reduction in human suffering. For example, much effort has been made to improve the health and nutrition of children in Bangladesh, but along with the country’s economic development have risen slum-filled cities with factories that employ thousands of children to work long hours for low wages. The evils against which we labor are being replaced by new ones born out of unquenchable human greed and leading to new forms of illness and hunger.
In the face of such perpetual suffering, how does one nurture the healing ministry among servants of churches that have few resources with which to work? Many congregations in Bangladesh cannot even afford to pay their pastors, much less provide materially for their poor Muslim and Hindu neighbors. Yet these churches are called by Christ to minister to those who suffer.
We teach our students that it is not from wealth that the church receives its authority and power to help those in need, but from Christ alone. Indeed, wealth can delude us into thinking it is the answer to the world’s needs and that the wealthy are the agents of such salvation. On the contrary, Jesus tells us that all we need in order to minister in his name are the authority and power he gives us. He has already bestowed these gifts upon the church in Bangladesh, and so it need not depend on outside resources. The ability to carry out the healing ministry is part of the Church’s spiritual inheritance.
Our students learn that the ministry of healing to which Christ calls the church is, essentially, an evangelical task. At the heart of human suffering is a separation from God, and true healing occurs only when this relationship is restored. The church proclaims the hope of this restoration not only through its preaching but also through its compassion, sacrificial service, advocacy for the oppressed, and peacemaking. Only by offering this hope of restoration through Jesus Christ will the church’s ministry of healing bear lasting fruit that human greed cannot spoil or newly emerging evils trample and ruin.
After a worship service last week that honored this year’s graduates from St. Andrew’s, one of them, Subol Horijon, a Hindu convert, told me of his desire to take what he has learned and minister to his people, the low-caste Hindu communities of Bangladesh. I will visit Subol to continue supporting him as he carries out the ministry of healing with the spiritual gifts Christ has given him.
With appreciation for your faithful support,
Dr. Leslie Y. Morgan
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 181
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